At Fractured Atlas, we try to be transparent about How We Work. Especially when it comes to the transition we made to becoming a fully distributed team. We slowly wound down the number of people coming into our Manhattan office, and as of late 2019, we fully flipped the switch. Here’s what it looked like for us to transition to a virtual team. Even in our own team, we’ve seen that people approach virtual working differently. With the freedom to organize our days outside of an office, we’ve each had to find out what kinds of schedules work for us, how to recharge during the day, and how to organize our workspaces. There’s a lot of information flying around about how to make working from home work for you, but we know first-hand that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
One of the major challenges with a switch from working in an office to working from home is figuring out how to manage teams. How can you effectively provide your team with the resources they need to do their work? How can you make sure that they know what your team is working on without micromanaging? How does your whole management philosophy change when you don’t have an office and can’t physically see or meet with your team?
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We’re all anxiously awaiting the time when we can “go back to normal” after social isolation, quarantine, and all of the other measures we’re taking to protect ourselves and our community from COVID-19. We want to go over to our friends’ apartments, go to coffee shops, bookstores, and bars. We want to have picnics and go out dancing. We want to hug each other. But we also have an opportunity to think about the ways in which we don’t want to go back to normal. For so many of us, normal is food and housing insecurity, living paycheck to paycheck, inadequate healthcare, work environments that don’t accommodate accessibility needs, toxic bosses, and more. We don’t want to go back to normal. We want better. As writer Aja Barber puts it, “what world do you want to return to?”
Moving money is one of the biggest practical challenges companies and organizations face when quickly transitioning to a fully distributed environment. While most administrative staff can fairly quickly transition to working from home, accounting and finance teams often hit roadblocks because of the procedures that they use to handle payments from their organization or company. It’s unclear for many financial teams how to easily perform this function away from their office. The finance team is often tied to a specific location in order to process and account for financial data due to control mandates. Cloud-based accounting systems have become more popular over the past few years, but finance teams are still encountering limitations (like physical check depositing* and cutting) before they can perform their duties remotely. [*More on this in a later piece.]
For everyone who has just started working from home, we know that you’re experiencing a huge shift in your work life and in your day-to-day. Fractured Atlas took a long time to transition to being a fully distributed team, finally making the leap at the end of 2019. We’ve had a lot of time to think about the challenges of virtual work. Over time, and through plenty of trial and error, we have been able to build a virtual office culture in line with our values and our mission, that supports the team as individuals as well as workers. For all of you who are just entering the world of working from home, we know that it’s challenging. And especially challenging if you work in a sector that’s not used to virtual working, like the arts or nonprofits. Plus, any issues you might be having working from home are almost certainly compounded by everything else that’s on your mind as a result of COVID-19, which is why you’re working from home in the first place.
At Fractured Atlas, we’ve always tried to be transparent about How We Work. Especially when it comes to the transition we slowly made to becoming a fully distributed team. We slowly wound down the number of people coming into our Manhattan office, and as of late 2019, we fully flipped the switch. Here’s what it looked like to transition to a virtual team. Even in our own team, we’ve seen that people approach virtual working differently. With the freedom to organize our days outside of an office, we’ve each had to find out what kinds of schedules work for us, how to recharge during the day, and how to organize our workspaces. There’s a lot of information flying around about how to make working from home work for you, but we know first-hand that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.
The world is experiencing a huge shift as a result of COVID-19, especially when it comes to how we think about jobs and offices. All of a sudden, offices have had to rapidly get their teams set up with the right gear, the right technical tools, and beginning the process of emotionally adjusting to a virtual working - all in a matter of days or weeks. And one of the biggest changes to come about for newly virtual workers? The introduction of video conferencing through software like Zoom. Meetings that used to be face-to-face are now conducted through video. It might not seem like a huge shift, but it really is very different from face-to-face meeting. There are new questions about how to schedule meetings, what professionalism looks like, and more.
So your job has just gone virtual. Now what? Once your company or organization has figured out how to get everyone a computer, which video conferencing and chat tools to use, and how to store files on a shared cloud-based drive, there’s still a huge amount of adjustment that needs to take place. Even though you’re still working on a computer, things probably feel totally different. It can be hard to get back into the swing of things. You might feel uninspired, isolated, or like you can’t concentrate. Even under the best circumstances, this is totally normal for workers who have transitioned from office life to virtual working.
People talk a lot about remote work, and I don't love the word. It makes me think of people working on a deserted island, disconnected from the organization. That's not a great way to run an organization; it creates silos and a disconnected team. Silos and disconnection are a perfect recipe for organizations that can’t adapt to change, innovate, or make the world a bit of a better place.
Work. Shouldn’t. Suck. promotes people-centric organizational design for thriving workplaces. And these days, workplaces are increasingly going fully virtual, often in the span of days or weeks. How do we make sure that the transition sucks as little as possible?